With a nationwide urban housing crisis that offers little hope of ameliorating, the president has formed an affordable housing council with the aim of identifying regulations that are forming barriers to the construction of affordable housing.
On June 25, President Trump signed an executive order to create a White House council to study federal regulatory barriers to increasing affordable housing.
According to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, the council will represent a coalition of representatives across eight federal agencies and will engage with state, local, and tribal leaders to “remove obstacles that impede the production of more affordable homes, namely the enormous price tag of burdensome government regulation.”
According to the Secretary, “over twenty-five percent of the cost of a new home is a direct result of federal, state, and local regulations,” and the council will study which specific federal regulations are unintentionally creating a barrier to home ownership.
Carson also stated that the president is well-suited to create the council because of his “decades of experience as a world renowned builder and developer.” While it is true that Mr. Trump is a self-designated real-estate mogul, he also filed for bankruptcy multiple times on various Trump properties and has had his fair share of business failures. Additionally, the president has no experience with the development of affordable housing, which is what is relevant to Carson’s new council.
Carson’s actions as Secretary of HUD have not been well-received by either party. A former surgeon who has stated that poverty is a “state of mind,” he has demonstrated a profound lack of understanding of real-estate and affordable housing; speaking in support of the president’s proposed budget that would cut $7 billion from affordable housing programs through HUD, Carson remarked that the state of housing has to be improved “while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.” HUD, under Carson’s leadership, has also been criticized for its ineffective response to communities hit by natural disasters, particularly in Puerto Rico.
According to Representative Katie Porter (D – California), “Carson demonstrated no awareness of even the basics of his agency’s jurisdiction.” She also stated that he had “tried to increase rent on millions of Americans receiving federal housing assistance,” which might have been catastrophic for those families.
Nonetheless, Carson has, for a while now, been espousing the belief that we need to get rid of city regulations that zone large swaths of land as for single-family use only, which many progressive housing advocates argue is necessary to desegregate housing and reduce homelessness. Carson points to Minneapolis, which recently ended single-family zoning, as emblematic of how the regulatory move can help the affordable housing crisis, arguing more cities should follow its lead.
It will be important to monitor whether the council takes real and necessary action to combat the urban housing crisis along the lines of Carson’s more progressive and action-oriented rhetoric or whether it will fall victim to his history of inaction and uninformed policymaking.